The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) recognized a record number of students at the 2015 commencement ceremony held on Monday, June 15, at Matthew Knight Arena.

2015 Commencement imageApproximately 575 students participated in the ceremony, including four doctoral candidates and 40 master’s students. With more than 5,000 family and friends in attendance, the arena was filled with laughter and tears.

Latin honors were by earned by 22 students:

  • four earning summa cum laude honors with a GPA of 4.0 or higher;
  • seven earning magna cum laude honors with a GPA between 3.89 and 3.99; and
  • 11 earning cum laude honors with a GPA between 3.77 and 3.88.

The student speaker was Alexandra Taylor, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in journalism. Taylor is the first student speaker for the SOJC Commencement Ceremony and was selected by her fellow students.

The alumnus speaker was Andy Maser, BA ’07, and 2013 Eric Allen Outstanding Young Alumnus Award winner. Maser is an Emmy Award-winning director of photography with 13 years of experience in commercial, broadcast, documentary, non-profit and feature film production. A National Geographic Explorer, Maser is often tapped for difficult shoots in remote and dangerous parts of the world. He is comfortable shooting in SCUBA on Whitewater rivers, hanging out of helicopters and navigating logistics in politically unstable countries.

Watch the full commencement ceremony online.

Text of Commencement Speeches

Alexandra Taylor, BA ‘15
Going into this speech I wondered how on earth one person could represent an entire department. And not only one department, but Journalism, Advertising, Media Studies, and Public Relations. With students coming from all over the world, but mostly from the bay area.

But then I realized that this is what we came to school for. We have been taught to experience and write with transparency so I am here to report on my findings.

I found the faculty to be an integral part in the success of the students. Some of the most memorable lessons were ones outside the classroom. They were in chasing teachers around Allen hall. I happen to believe half the Advertising department experience is just waiting outside of Deb Morrison’s office. Thankfully Dan was able to distract most of us with one of his drones and terrify freshman in the process.

As a Super J student you may have taken a class with Rebecca Force. If you did, you would not soon forget it. It was the first time many of us were challenged to be better journalists not for ourselves, but for the good of others.

An even larger part of the SOJC is our classmates. Group projects are essential to our way of life. We aren’t turning papers in that will be sit in a pile on the desk of some poor teacher’s assistant. These are projects and works that will define and help us to stand out for job opportunities in the future.

Many professors may think that if we sit in the back of the class we are less involved. But no, we weren’t streaming premier league soccer games and online shopping for summer wedges. We were recruiting and watching so that at a moments notice when our teacher said “group project” we could look over the class and pick our team. Who is good with pictures? Who can do the web design? Where is my PR person? Most if not all that can be said about each other is through working together and eventually finding a spot on Taylor’s patio to relax afterwards.

Finally I have found that more often than not, your teachers can end up becoming some of your closest friends. This past year we lost Mark Lewis, a member of the faculty and a dear friend. He taught a presentations class at the SOJC and changed the lives of so many students. In class he told us never to be afraid of speaking in public because there will always be an angel in the audience. There will always be one person who is going to connect with what you are saying and want to be a part of it. That is what this school is about. Using your voice, whether it be writing, reporting, or creating a campaign, to express something that matters to you.

How many students have been asked what they are doing after school today? Now members of the audience, how many of you are working a different job than the one you had right out of college?

Maybe we know exactly what we want to do starting today. Maybe we have no idea. A few months ago I told my parents I was considering changing my major and to this they said You don’t have to know what you want to do today, you don’t event have to know what you want to do tomorrow, but you have to promise that you won’t stop looking for it.

It is terrifying standing in front of someone and saying look at all that I have done. Pick me because I am the best person for this and I deserve it. But just knowing that there is someone out there that is going to hear what you have to say and get excited about it, is well worth putting ourselves out there and chasing what we want, even if we don’t know what that is yet.

I would like to thank the faculty members that challenged us, our loved ones for supporting us, and the University of Oregon for letting us find ourselves here.

Andy Maser, BA ‘07
Let’s get this part out of the way—I do actually have the most awesome job ever: I direct and shoot films and commercials all over the world for National Geographic.

I’m freelance. I get to take months off to play every year, I get to hang out with lions, tigers and bears and just about everything I do is fun. You will definitely not catch me complaining!

My lovely hosts have given me three minutes, and I don’t really like the spotlight, so I’ll get to it.

Looking back over the last 8 years since I graduated, and even farther back than that, I’m pretty sure that the secret to achieving great things is an intense, purposeful focus. That might sound kinda lofty and abstract, but it’s actually pretty basic I think: The more time you spend doing something, the better at it you will get. Practice does actually make perfect, I guess.

For me it was film: I started experimenting in high school and never stopped, so I ended up with a lot of experience at a young age. Over the years, I have drifted from extreme sports documentaries, to environmental and conservation documentaries, to TV documentaries, to advertising and branded content. Best case, I’m at home 50% of the time. Worst case, I’m reachable only by satellite phone for months on end. (luckily I have a very understanding and flexible girlfriend!) The days are long, the bugs bite hard and sometimes you don’t’ get the shot.   It is not always easy.

Film has commanded the majority of my waking life for a long time—and I’m only 30. There are times that I could, and maybe have been, called obsessed. But like any obsessed person, I don’t see it that way!

I feel like there’s a fine line between focus and obsession and the distinction is purpose. I have a clear idea of where I want to go—in both career and life. With a destination in mind, I can chart a course. So the people I meet and the luck I have along the way help to push me where I want to go. I work long hours and make social sacrifices with an end in mind. And that end isn’t all about career.

Right, I know what you’re thinking—I’m the lucky one, I know what the hell I want to do with my life. What happens when you don’t know where you want to go or what you want to do? I’m just graduating from college, dude! Give me a break!

The thing is, I don’t buy it. There’s something in the world that you really care about. It certainly doesn’t need to be a formal career path. But focus on something. Maybe it is becoming the best advertising copywriter ever. Or maybe it’s more along the lines of creating a situation where you have just enough money to maintain the perfect work/lifestyle balance. That’s up to you. I’m obligated to warn you though that whatever you decide to dedicate yourself to will take a lot of effort. I hear that the great things always do.

But here’s the secret: You can change your mind whenever you want. But if you are going to change course, make sure you move forward purposefully with all the energy you possibly can. Define the next thing you want to become great at and really go for it. Again, the whole practice makes perfect thing…

But most importantly, always make sure that you’re having fun. Life is too short to be serious all the time.

Thank you and congratulations!